The Book Of Merlyn

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The original manuscript of The Book of Merlyn is inthe T. H. White Collection, Humanities Research Center,the University of Texas at Austin.Copyright 1977, by Shaftesbury Publishing Company AH rights reservedPublished by arrangement with University of Texas Press and Julian Bach Literary Agency, Inc.All rights reserved which includes the rightto reproduce this book or portions thereof inany form whatsoever. For information addressUniversity of Texas PressBox 7819University StationAustin, Texas 78712SBN 425-03826-2BERKLEY MEDALLION BOOKS are published by Berkley Publishing Corporation200 Madison Avenue New York, N. Y. 10016BERKLEY MEDALLION BOOK TM 757,375 Printed in the United States of America Berkley Edition, SEPTEMBER, 1978Pages 66-72 and 101-126 of The Book ofMertyn have appeared, in slightly modified form, in The Once and Future King, copyright c 1939,1940 by T. H. White,c 1958 by T. H. White and published by G. P. PutnanVs Sons, pages 122-130 and I64-.177. The same pages have also appeared in the original British edition of The Once and Future King, published by William Collins' Sons & Co.Publisher's StatementThe Book of Merlyn, written by T. H. White during World War II, was intended to be the concluding book of a planned five-book volume entitled The Once and Future King. While The Once and Future King was indeed finally published in 1958, The Book of Merlyn was not included. This is the first time it has ever fully appeared in print.White did not see proofs of The Book of Merlyn after the complete manuscript was submitted for publication late in 1941, and, as he was in the habit of making corrections and revisions once his work was set in type, this manuscript was not in final form when it came to us. However, it seemed to be so nearly finished that only minimal editing was necessary.The 1958 Putnam edition of The Once and Future King was used as a guide in our editing. The use of punctuation in dialogue wasregularized. All errors in spelling were corrected, and British and archaic spellings were retained. Book titles and, usually, genus/ species names were italicized, and, where White had been inconsistent in capitalizing such words as badger, man, and democracy, capitalization was regularized. In a few cases, where the typist had obviously omitted a word, that word has been inserted.Two episodes in The Book of Merlynscenes where Merlyn transforms Arthur into an ant and later into a goosehave already appeared somewhat out of context in The Sword in the Stone as published in the tetralogy. White had originally written them for The Book of Merlyn in his five-book version of The Once and Future King, and we have therefore let them stand.Where Latin or Greek is not translated in the original manuscript, a translation has kindly been provided by Peter Green.THE BOOK OF MERLYNThe Unpublished Conclusion to The Once and Future KingThe Story of the BookThe dream, like the one before it, lasted about half an hour. In the last three minutes of the dream some fishes, dragons and such-tike ran hurriedly about. A dragon swallowed one of the pebbles, but spat it out.In the ultimate twinkling of an eye, far tinier in time than the last millimetre on a six-foot rule, there came a man. He split up the one pebble which remained of all that mountain with blows; then made an arrow-head of it, and slew his brother.The Sword in the Stone Chapter 18, original version**Mv FATHER made me a wooden castle big enough to get into, and he fixed real pistol barrels beneath its battlements to fire a salute on my birthday, but made me sit in front the first nightthat deepx 7>ic Book of MerlynIndian nightto receive the salute, and 1, believing I was to be shot, cried."Throughout his life White was subject to fears: fears from withouta menacing psychopathic mother, the prefects at Cheltenham College "rattling their canes," poverty, tuberculosis, public opinion; fears from withinfear of being afraid, of being a failure, of being trapped. He was afraid of death, afraid of the dark. He was afraid of his own proclivities, which might be called vices: drink, boys, a latent sadism. Notably free from fearing God, he was basically afraid of the human race. His life was a running battle with these fears, which he fought with courage, levity, sardonic wit, and industry. He was never without a project, never tired of learning, and had a high opinion of his capacities.This high opinion was shared by his teachers at the University of Cambridge. When tuberculosis tripped him in his second year, a group of dons made up a sum of money sufficient to send him to Italy for a year's convalescence. He took to Italy like a duck to water, learned the language, made some low friends, studied pension life, and wrote his first novel, They Winter Abroad. The inaugurator of the convalescent fund recalled: "... he returned in great form, determined to have the examiner's blood in Part II; and sure enough in 1929 he took a tearing First Class with Distinction."In 1932, on a Cambridge recommendation, he was appointed head of the English Department at Stowe School.It was a position of authority under anThe Book of Merlyn xienlightened headmaster who allowed him ample rope. His pupils still remember him, some for the stimulus of his teaching, others for the sting of his criticism, others again for extracurriculum rambles in search of grass snakes. He learned to fly, in order to come to terms with a fear of falling from high places, and to think rather better of the human race by meeting farm laborers at the local inn. After a couple of years he tired of Stowe, and decided on no evidence that his headmaster meant to get rid of him. With poverty a fear to be reckoned with, he constructed two potboilers and compiled another. An Easter holiday fishing in rain and solitude on a Highland river showed him what he really wantedto write in freedom, to land a book of his own as well as a salmon.At midsummer 1936 he gave up his post and rented a gamekeeper's cottage at Stowe Ridings on the Stowe estate. The compiled potboiler, made up of extracts from his fishing, hunting, shooting, and flying diaries and called England Have My Bones, sold so well that its publisher undertook to pay him 200 a year against a yearly book.The gamekeeper's cottage stood among woodlandsa sturdy Victorian structure without amenities. It was by lamplight that White pulled from a shelf the copy of the Morte d'Arthur he had used for the essay on Malory he submitted for the English tripos, Part I. Then he had been concerned with the impression he would make on the examiners. Now he read with a free mind.One of the advantages of having taken a First Class with Distinction in English is a capacity to read. White read the Morte d'Arthur as acutely asXllThe Book of Merlynthough he were reading a brief. The note in whichhe summarized his findings may be his first steptoward The Once and Future King:"The whole Arthurian story is a regular greekdoom, that of Orestes."Uther started the wrong-doing upon the family of the duke of Cornwall, and it was the descendant of that family who finally revenged the wrong upon Arthur. The fathers have eaten sour grapes etc. Arthur had to pay for his father's initial transgression, but, to make it fairer, the fates ordained that he himself should also make a transgression (against the Cornwalls) in order to bind him more closely in identification with thedoom."It happened like this."The Duke of Cornwall married Igraine and they had three daughters, Morgan le Fay, Elaineand Morgause."Uther Pendragon fell in love with Igraine and slew her husband in war, in order to get her. Upon her he begot Arthur, so that Arthur was half brother to the three girls. But he was broughtup separately."The girls married Uriens, Nentres and Lot, all kings. They would naturally have a dislike for Uther and anybody who had anything to do withUther."When Uther died and Arthur succeeded him in mysterious circumstances, naturally Arthur inherited this feud. The girls persuaded their husbands to lead a revolt of eleven kings."Arthur had been told that Uther was his father, but Uther had been a vigourous oldThe Book of Merlyn xiiigentleman and Merlyn had very stupidly forgotten to tell Arthur who his mother was."After a great battle in which the 11 kings were subdued, Morgause, the wife of King Lot, came to Arthur on an embassy. They did not know of their relationship at this time. They fell for each other, went to bed together, and the result was Mordred. Mordred was thus the fruit of incest (his father was his mother's half brother), and it was he who finally brought the doom on Arthur's head. The sin was incest, the punishment Guinever, and the instrument of punishment Mordred, the fruit of the sin. It was Mordred who insisted on blowing the gaff on Launcelot and Guinever's affair, which Arthur was content to overlook, so long as it was not put into words."En trentiesme annee de mon aage Quand toutes mes hontesj'ai huesWhite was thirty when he rented the gamekeeper's cottage. He had done with his past, he was on good terms with himself, he was free. His solitude was peopled by a succession of hawks, a rescued tawny owl, a setter bitch on whom he unloosed his frustrated capacity to love. Now in the Morte d'Arthur, he had a subject into which he could unloose his frustrated capacity for hero worship, his accumulated miscellany of scholarship, his love of living, his admiration of Malory. It is as though, beginning a new subject, he wrote as a novice. Instead of the arid dexterity of the potboilers, The Sword in the Stone has theXIVThe Book of Merlynimpetus and recklessness of a beginner's work. It is full of poetry, farce, invention, iconoclasm, and, above all, the reverence due to youth in its portrayal of the young Arthur. It was accepted for publication on both sides of the Atlantic, and in the United States was being considered by the Book of the Month Clubwho took it. But it was 1938, the year of Munich; the pistol barrels in the toy fort were charged for more than a salute. Fear of war half choked him when he was fitted with a gasmask, retreated when Chamberlain bought peace on Hitler's terms, but could not be dismissed.White's thinking was typical of the postwar epoch. War was a ruinous dementia. It silenced law, it killed poets, it exalted the proud, filled the greedy with good things, and oppressed the humble and meek; no good could come of it, it was hopelessly out of date. No one wanted it. (Unfortunately, no one had passionately wanted the League of Nations, either.) If, against reason and common sense, another war should break out, he must declare himself a conscientious objector. In the first lemming rush to volunteer, he wrote to David Garnett: "I have written to Siegfried Sassoon and the headmaster of Stowe. (my poor list of influential people) to ask them if they can get me any sensible job in this wretched war, if it starts. This is the ultimatum; I propose to enlist as a private soldier in one month after the outbreak of hostilities, unless one of you gets me an efficient job before that."Chamberlain capitulated, the crisis went off the boil, White began The Witch in the Wood (theThe Book of Merlyn xvsecond volume of The Once and Future King) and was diverted to Grief for the Grey Geese, a novel he never finished. It was conceived in a state of intense physical excitement. He was alone, he was in the intimidating sea-level territory of the Wash, he was pursuing a long-ambitioned desire, intricately compounded of sporting prowess and sadismto shoot a wild goose in flight. The theme is significant. The geese are warred on by the goose shooters. Among the goose shooters is a renegade who takes sides with the geese, deflecting their flight away from the ranks of the shooters. White plainly identifies himself with the renegade, while bent on shooting a wild goose.In January 1939 he wrote to Garnett, who had invited him to go salmon fishing in Ireland: "If only I can get out of this doomed country before the crash, I shall be happy. Two years of worry on the subject have convinced me that I had better run for my life, and have a certain right to do so. I may just as well do this as shoot myself on the outbreak of hostilities. I don't like war, I don't want war, and I didn't start it. I think I could just bear life as a coward, but I couldn't bear it as a hero."A month later he was in Ireland, lodging in a farmhouse called Doolistown, in County Meath, where he proposed to stay long enough to finish The Witch in the Wood (published shortly thereafter) and catch a salmon. It was his home for the next six and a half years. For six of them he never heard an English voice and rarely a cultivated one. Provincial Ireland swallowed him like a deep bog.XVIThe Book of MerlynHe had escaped his doomed country, but he could not avoid being in earshot of it.Diary. April 26th, 1939Conscription is now seriously spoken of in England, and everybody lives from one speech of Hitler's to the next. I read back in this book at the various tawdry little decisions which I have tried to make under the pressure of the Beast; to be a conscientious objector, and then to fight, and then to seek some constructive wartime employment which might combine creative work with service to my country. All these sad and terrified dashes from one hunted corner to the next.Meanwhile he tried to protect his peace of mind by dashes in new directions. Lodging in a Catholic household and treated as one of the family, he considered becoming a Catholic, Because his father had happened to be born in Ireland, he deluded himself with an idea of Irish ancestry. He read books on Irish history, with scholarly dispassionateness reading authors on either side of that vexed question; he tried to learn Erse, going once a week to the local schoolmaster for lessons and "doing an hour's prep every morning"; he looked for a habitation, and rented a house called Sheskin Lodge in County Mayo for the shooting; later, he made researches into the legendary Godstone on the island of Inniskea. More to the purpose, being involuntary, he was captured by the somber beauty, the desolate charm, of Erristhat part of County Mayo lying between the Nephin Beg range and the sea.The Book of Merlyn xviiIt was at Sheskin Lodge, embowered in fuchsias and rhododrendron thickets and surrounded by leagues of bog, that he heard the last English voices. They were saying Goodbye. War had been declared, the visiting Garnetts were going back to England.The tenancy of Sheskin ran out, he returned to Doolistown and listened to the news.October 20th, 1939There don't seem to be many people being killed yetno hideous slaughters of gas and bacteria.But the truth is going.We are suffocating in propaganda instead of gas, slowly feeling our minds go dead.October 23rdThe war as one hears of it over the wireless is more terrible than anything lean ima...


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